Grade Detection

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by GlacierBill, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. GlacierBill

    GlacierBill New Member

    Does anyone know where I can get something like a small buble level that I can place on a set of trucks (example below) and role it up a grade to tell me what the real grade is?

    Attached Files:


    COMBAT Member

    I believe you do this with math, like 2 feet and one inch climb equals 2% grade and so on.

    I think. :)
  3. GlacierBill

    GlacierBill New Member

    Actually the formula would be 100" @ 2" rise would be 2%, but that is hard to calulate in turns and in limited space. But Thanks
  4. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    MicroMark sells a small pendulum protractor. Unfortunately that will give you a reading in degrees, not percent of grade. I don't know of any device that directly reads in percentages. As mentioned above, the math calculation is your best bet.
  5. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Maybe what glacier is getting at is that it is sometimes difficult to have a reference point to calculate the grade. Plus, there may be local increases and decreases in grade.

    The device described above may work, though you will have to make the conversion from degrees to percent.

    Side note, I, as a rule of thumb use 1/8" rise per foot = 1%
  6. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

  7. woodone

    woodone Member

    If you use a 12 inch level, use 1/8 inch would give you a 1% grade. (well almost).
    There are only 96 1/8s in a foot. so you will be a little off, to be right on you need to add
    4 more 1/8s- or 1/2 inch. I use a small piece of wood 12 1/2 inches long, set my level on the top of the wood and get the grades. It will be right on! :)
  8. GlacierBill

    GlacierBill New Member

    I decided to build one, I used 1/4" plastic tube with plugs in the end and with Kitchen oil. I maiked 0% Grade and 2% Grade (one line is a little crocked) and a Model Power boxcar was able to run it around the track and it worked fine. I will be redoing it to make it a little more accurate and add 4% Grade.

    Attached Files:

  9. jcoop1

    jcoop1 Member

    an easy way to measure grade is to lay a string along the track on the entire grade.

    Then lay the string out straight, measure the lenght. Measure the height at the end of the grade. then do the math. 4" over 100" = 4 percent.
  10. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    A simple way is to make a litte gadget out of cardstock, a simple wooden base and a weighted piece of string. Put tick marks on the card to represent positive and negative gradients, stand it on your track and viola! Instant grade measurement.

    Takes just a few minutes to make and "calibrate" using a simple yardstick and tape measure, costs pennies and impresses your fellow MRR's no end!

  11. Fort Kent Dad

    Fort Kent Dad New Member

    When I built my grades I worked on two principals. First the grade measured by comparing the length of the run (best done with a string strung along the section, especially if curved) over the climb (difference in height from bottom to top).

    The second principal was that the climb should be smooth. Apart from the very bottom and the top where there is a "bend" in the surface to start the grade and to level off at the top, and that bend needs to be smooth, the rest of the climb should be "level". I used a steel ruler to ensure that the climb was even. No dips or bumps along the way.

    Hope that helps, seems to have worked for me.

    (I did find with a straight climb a lazer level can be used to calculate the degrees of the climb which is not the usual way we express grade - but my grades were all on curves).
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Bill: you may find what you want at an RV dealer. RV people use all sorts of levels on their rigs, and some of them look like what you want. They probably aren't calibrated for our purposes.
  13. woodone

    woodone Member

    I just ran into a level that might fit your needs, Go to any home improvement store and pick up a line level. There only $1.50 or so. I need one to do a project around the house, when I saw it I thought of your need. You will have to cut it down to fit into a car, but at $1.50 I don;t think you can beat the price.
  14. train1

    train1 Member

    This is something I started working on when this thread first started. I have yet to place the car on a grade and mark the centres for the various % increments.
    It is - as was mentioned - a line level. The intent is to secure the level down with silicone caulking. The colour of the level itself ccould be changed with model paint to blend in with car OR look like an 'interesting' revenue load.
    The unsightly hooks on the top will be cut off. The only problem I forsee is the very small (translated miniscule) movement of the bubble between the various grades which I noticed while initially testing it.
    I am thinking of maybe doing a tutorial of the project in the near furture if the interest is there.

    The various grades will be marked on the car along the top sides.
    The car isn't too unsightly - and can be run in a normal train consist around the layout.
  15. woodone

    woodone Member

    I Guess that I don't quite understand how this is to be used? If you are seting grades, I would think that you need to have them set before you lay track. If you try and watch the bubble of the level when it moves on the track work, it will not stay very steady. The movement of the car will cause the bubble to move back and forth.
  16. train1

    train1 Member

    You have to calibrate the car first to the grade desired ( I'd use a piece of track on a 5' true straight length of 1x3). Mark the centre of the bubble with a pencil at the appropriate grade you want. For example - the height at the end of a 1x3 5 foot peice of wood would be 1" for a 2% grade.
    Once the car has been marked with the grade you want - put it on the layout.
    Lay a section of track on the intended grade and place the car on it. The car remains stationary on the part of the track you wish to elevate. You then move the grade supports until the bubble indicates the grade.

    I guess photos will be required. Stay tuned
  17. GlacierBill

    GlacierBill New Member

    The use is to check my grades to see if they are close to the desired grade. The one I built works ok, but the design using the line live looks like it may work a bit better, what brand line level did you use Train 1. And have you tested it on grades up to 4%
  18. woodone

    woodone Member

    The line level that I got the other day was made by Empire. It was $1.29 plus tax. You could just mount it on a flat car. I think that I would use a shim under one end, with the car on a section of track set to the grade you want to check. The bubble would then be between the marks. Move the car over the track you want to check, would be eazy to see if the bubble moved. You could use different shims to check different grades. I would think it would be hard to tell the differance between a 3% and a 4% grade by looking at the level. The bubble will not move that much, or maybe you have better eyes than I.

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